Estelle M. Deshon’s poetry collection Way Leads Onto Way reads much like a journal of praise and affirmation, despair and travail met, endured and overcome.
Deshon considers matters both great (“Take your freedom; break my heart./ It is clear to me that we will part… / But how I hate this word—/ Divorce…”) and small (“I love giraffes, grace, grandchildren, and gardening…”). To her work, she brings gentle humor, caring intelligence, sturdy faith, and straightforward counsel: “Let go of:/ Arrogance to embrace Accountability/ Bias to embrace Balance/ Criticism to embrace Compassion.”
These rhyming poems work best when Deshon finds a way to express what life has taught her in verse that is simple, honest and clear. For example, in “In Every Cell” Deshon writes, “Love does not confine itself/ But is alive in every cell.” Similarly, in “I Remember Job,” Deshon refers to Job’s afflictions to draw the lesson “that God has had to prune me often so I could grow.” Here, the domestic language of gardening helps counter the terrible vexations of life.
One of the problems with this kind of writing is that it’s all-too-easy to slide into stereotype and platitude. Unfortunately, Deshon often falls into this trap. Combined with a tendency toward awkward wording, this dependence on cliché (i.e.,“Stepping out from beneath dark clouds”) causes Deshon’s heartfelt self-affirmations to curdle into sentimentality and cant, as in: “At setting sun over the day’s canvas I did pore” or “with Information I did abound.” Additionally, Deshon sometimes twists her syntax into near incomprehensibility to make a rhyme: “So I decided, this is where I should stay,/ On top of the circumstances,/ Not under with them on me to weigh.”
The book’s strength lies in the quiet dignity of Deshon’s tender, loving grasp of what matters in everyday life: “I love Jesus, joy, and/ Kindness,/ Learning and loveliness,/ Magic, mangoes, memories, music, and movies on/ Netflix.”
While the work often falters artistically, readers will find solace in such lovely moments.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.